Take over Astro, government urged


The Muslim Consumers Association Malaysia (MCAM) today urged government to take over Astro for defying a Cabinet order not to hike its rates. Astro’s move will affect 3 million subscribers nationwide.

Its advisor Tunku Azwil Tunku Abdul Razak called on the government to acquire at least 51 percent of Astro’s company shares through Khazanah Nasional Berhad and revamp Astro management thereafter.

“They should replace the board of directors, chief executive director and senior management with those who understand consumers’ wishes and are not solely profit-oriented,” said MCAM advisor Tunku Azwil Tunku Abdul Razak at a press conference.

His statement came amidst strong public disgust over Astro’s announcement last week to stick to its package rate revision effective July 11 in spite of an objection from the Cabinet.

The local pay-television giant had earlier stated that a rate hike is inevitable due to escalating global and local production costs.

Astro offers 155 channels for RM9 in India

Depending on the choice of package, subscribers are now charged for an increase between RM1 and RM15 per month under the new rates, or enjoy a reduction of between RM4 and RM14.95 per month.

Tengku Azwil (below, right) said it is illogical for Astro to claim it cannot recover the costs since its Malaysian subscription fee is already higher than its packages in other countries where it also operates.

“In India, Astro offers 155 channels with only RM9.17 (Rp135) per month whereas they are charging around RM38 for a basic family package that contains nine free-to-air channels,” said.

He noted that Astro has not rectified its service interruption during bad weather, saying it owes 3 million subscribers a total of RM49 million a year because of this non-provision of service.

“According to BBC News, rain fall occurs on as many as 200 days in Malaysia every year. If an hour of downtime occurs everytime it rains, a subscriber generally loses a total of RM16.41 a year to unwatchable airtime,”

“For three million subscribers, it means RM49million loss a year,” said the advisor whose association has 2.5 million members.

He urged Information, Communication and Culture Ministry and Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Commission to rescind the exclusive satellite broadcast license granted to Astro:

“MCAM thinks Astro is not fit to receive an exclusive satellite television license for its arrogance in not accepting the decision and conditions made by cabinet and relevant authorities.”

MCAM to take legal action

He also asked for Astro to be listed as a “controlled service item” under Control of Supplies Act 1961 to protect consumers from arbitrary price hikes.

When asked about the next course of action, Tunku Azwil said MCAM will pursue legal action if Astro fails to comply.

Meanwhile, MCAM executive official Mohd Mustaffa Hamzah warned that its association’s boycott campaign of Astro will continue to grow since Astro has decided to go ahead with its rate hike.

The association has also secured a meeting with Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, which will be held soon.